Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What do I do now?

(written to a woman who transported from a homebirth and had a cesarean)

Control. Seems to be a strong theme in my life right now. Or rather, my ultimate lack of it. I may get a bit spiritual here, so reader beware.

One thing that I can guarantee is that your next pregnancy and labor will be different from your last one. Every pregnancy, every baby, every labor is unique to itself.

As I wrote in my last letter, in the end, the only responsibility we have is to plan the safest birth we can. There are lots of things we can do, techniques we can learn, knowledge we can gain, expertise we can hire, wisdom we can cultivate, trust we can give, surrender we can make....and all of these things are really important. All of these things can be something that the outcome of a birth hinges on. And every single one of them can be trumped by the universe. And the universe resolutely refuses to give us the guarantee we demand. If you believe in a deity, then you may believe that you are guaranteed an ultimate outcome to your life....but my experience has been that specific outcomes are often, quite deliberately, not revealed to me -- all I'm given is the assurance that there's a plan I'm part of and it is bigger than I can understand....if I believe my God is good, then that needs to be enough in the end (not saying this is easy or that I'm any good at it. I'm not.)

Most of the time, left alone, women have vaginal births. You have the extra burden of not having made the usual mistakes you could then blame your cesarean on. You get to face the universe not caring the same way you do a lot sooner than many. You "should" have had a vaginal birth; after all, you really did do so much "right". That's a scary place to be...what if there's something fundamentally wrong with you? Hang around ICAN long enough and you'll have the opportunity to meet some women who've had to deal with that -- planned a homebirth with a good midwife...ended up cut. Now what? What more can they do? A former president of ICAN had 3 cesarean, the third a failed homebirth...while president of ICAN. And then she had a homebirth with her fourth. Why? I don't know.

I don’t know.

I hate that phrase. Everything in me rebels against not knowing. Why was I in the 10% of clomid users to have twins? I don't know. Why was I then in the 10% with double breech twins? I don't know. Why did this happen to me, who cared SO much about not having a cesarean. I don't know. To make me stronger, bring me to ICAN, this excuse, that rationalization and so on? If any of those are true, that's not good enough. I didn't want a cesarean. Period. I don't know why I had one, not really, and I have a feeling there's no reason out there that I can understand that would make me say "oh, ok, that's why." What I do believe, because, well, that's my world view, is that there was a reason and that no matter what the reason, good or bad, for my betterment or because this world just sucks sometimes, the experience can be (and has been to a great degree) redeemed....over a lot of years with a lot of mileage between then and now.

So what? Well....chances are good that you'll never find a "reason" for your cesarean that you can "fix" and then not have to worry about another cesarean. I can tell you that you'll always have to worry about another cesarean because all pregnant women have to worry about it. Even if you do find a thing to
fix....there are other reasons to have a cesarean and we just can't control most of them (any of them? I guess we can control elective repeats by not signing up for them and we can control for failed inductions by not consenting to induction but are there any others?)

I don't like fake it till you make it. I believe it’s fundamentally dishonest to one's own self. But, sometimes we do have to keep moving even while we look back and try to figure stuff out. If you don't find something to pin your cesarean on, what will you do the next time you are pregnant? Will you plan a repeat cesarean? Or will you go ahead and plan another vaginal birth, maybe at home....and do it, even though you are scared to death you'll have another cesarean? You do have control over what you plan. So keep asking the questions, keep picking through the wreckage and know that ultimately, we all reach that moment when we have to surrender to something that's just a lot bigger than we are, whether you call it birth, universe, fate, karma, evolution, luck, random chance or god.

I've really come to believe that those women who have the sorts of births (or VBACs) where they pat themselves on the back and say "see, I did this, that and the other thing and that's why I got my VBAC" are mistaken about how much credit they can take. They may have made good choices and that may have made a difference (then again, saying "no, I won't sign up for a repeat" might be all it takes for some women to have a VBAC – heck all it takes for a lucky few is to go into precipitous labor before the scheduled cesarean – talk about the importance of plans and choices! ) but in the end, they were blessed that the universe had an outcome in mind that fit what they wanted. Don't get me wrong, bad choices can certainly change an outcome...but think about all the bad choices that end in a vaginal birth.

This is like trying to resolve free will and predestination if you believe such things...they are both true and they are both at work. I guess birth really is life. I don't know why you had a cesarean. I really wish you hadn't. And I really hope you have a VBAC next time. And I know that chances are, you will. And until you do, you won’t know whether it will really happen or not.

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